Daewoo Builds Sonangol Oil Rigs as Angola Drilling Boom Looms

Angola, Africa’s largest crude producer after Nigeria, is building the first two drilling rigs to fly the flag of state oil company Sonangol EP as the country embarks on its biggest deepwater drilling campaign.

“The rigs will be able to operate in Angola and anywhere in the world where Sonangol has interests,” the company’s drilling engineer, Paulo Fernandes, said today at an oil conference in Luanda, the capital. The ships are being constructed by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. in South Korea and will be deployed in 2016, he said, declining to give the cost.

BP Plc, Statoil ASA and ConocoPhillips are among explorers investing at least $3 billion in wells off Angola next year, according to consultants Wood Mackenzie Ltd. Drillers want to tap fields beneath a band of salt under the sea floor, testing the Atlantic mirror theory that there may be huge deposits off West Africa similar to those across the ocean in Brazil.

Explorers will drill 32 offshore wells next year, including 15 in the pre-salt layer compared with two this year, Fernandes said. There will be eight pre-salt wells drilled in 2015 and one the year after, and they’ll cost about $200 million each, he said.

Sonangol estimates the country’s proven oil reserves at 13 billion barrels while the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries puts it at 9.1 billion. “We are aware of the discrepancy,” Fernandes said at the conference, organized by France’s Total SA. “Sonangol is working on the numbers and we will say something in the near future.”

Lobito Site

Sonangol is considering building a new logistics yard in the country’s south, possibly in Lobito where a 200,000 barrel-a-day refinery is under construction, because the Sonils base on the north side of Luanda is congested, Fernandes said. Sonils could also be expanded, he said.

Sonangol operates in Brazil, Gabon and Iraq as well as most Angolan blocks. The company plans to spend $8.8 billion on exploration over the next decade, Chief Executive Officer Francisco de Lemos Jose Maria said at the company’s annual meeting in February.

The country pumped 1.71 million barrels a day in October, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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